Texans plan to keep Marshall company

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
3:45
PM ET
Brandon MarshallMatthew Emmons/US PresswireWade Phillips plans on double-team Brandon Marshall, daring Jay Cutler to find another receiver.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall expects opportunities against man-to-man coverage Sunday when his team hosts the 7-1 Houston Texans at Soldier Field.

But considering Chicago has “only thrown it to one guy basically,” according to Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, perhaps Marshall should adjust those expectations because it appears the opponent plans to be one of the few teams this season truly committed to taking away the receiver.

“Marshall’s a great receiver,” Phillips said, “but they haven’t thrown it to the other guys very much except the running back. They do a great job of that. He’s a tremendous receiver.”

Phillips points out one of Chicago’s greatest flaws offensively. Marshall accounts for 50.8 percent of the team’s net yardage in the passing game, and his 59 receptions are nearly three times more than the club’s second-leading receiver, Matt Forte, who has hauled in 20 passes.

Combine the receiving yardage of Forte (179), third-leading receiver Earl Bennett (178), rookie Alshon Jeffery (184) and Devin Hester (176) and the foursome still comes up 80 yards short of Marshall’s 797 yards. He’s scored more touchdowns (7) than all the other receivers combined. In fact, Marshall is responsible for 36.8 percent of the club’s offensive TDs.

So Phillips’ response when asked how to play Marshall shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“We double cover him every play,” Phillips joked. “That’s our plan. We’re going to double cover him every play.”

Believe it or not, most of Chicago’s opponents haven’t utilized that tactic, and it's not likely the Texans will double-team him exclusively. The Titans played Cover 2 (two-deep zone), Cover 1 (man-to-man for all the defensive backs except one, which is usually the safety) and press man (man-to-man coverage with defensive backs lined up close on receivers to get a jam off the line of scrimmage) against Marshall, with the receiver catching nine passes for 122 yards and three touchdowns.

Part of that stems from the Bears playing with a lead on most occasions, which forces defenses -- anticipating them to run the ball to run out the clock -- to play more aggressively in attempts to take away the ball.

The Green Bay Packers experienced the most success when truly committing to stopping Marshall in Week 2 by playing Two-man (man-to-man at the corners with a safety playing over the top) , and limiting the receiver to two catches for 24 yards.

But Marshall thinks the Texans are “a team where I’m going to have some one-on-one coverage with their Pro Bowl corner (Johnathan) Joseph. I’ve gone up against him a few times, and he’s a top-three corner in this league right now.”

One Texans player, however, said the team plans to play Marshall the way they did last year when the receiver played for the Dolphins. Without any tape available from that game, the assumption is the Texans plan to mix it up against Marshall.

During Houston’s 23-10 win at Miami in 2011,Marshall had six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

Limiting Marshall to a similar performance might be seen as a success for the Texans, who hope to take away Jay Cutler’s top target and force him to beat them with players such as Hester, Bennett, Forte and tight end Kellen Davis.

“Cutler’s a real talent,” Phillips said. “I think everybody can recognize that. He’s a little bit (Brett) Favre-ish. He’ll run around and make a play that nobody can make. I think they don’t have a problem (on offense), but they’ve only thrown it to one guy basically. They do a great job of that.”

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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